Harriet Tucker admits it would be “incredible” if she could secure a place in the record books at Epsom Downs tomorrow (Thursday 1st July) by becoming the first female jockey to win both the Ladies’ Derby Handicap and St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 25 year old will bid to create a slice of history aboard the Denis Coakley-trained Party Island in the mile and a half contest, which is restricted to female amateur jockeys.
Tucker grabbed the headlines at the 2018 Festival when steering Pacha Du Polder to glory in the Foxhunter Chase while riding with a dislocated shoulder.
Although Tucker has had a handful of rides on the Flat it will be her first experience of riding around the world famous course at Epsom Downs, something she is particularly excited about.
Tucker said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve ridden at the Cheltenham Festival but this is a completely new experience and I’m quite excited. It would be incredible to be honest if I could win it and something I could cross off the to-do list.
“I never really imagined myself riding on the Flat as I always had my eyes set on riding over jumps but a few opportunities came up to ride on the Flat. It has been a new experience but I have really enjoyed it.
“Just to say I have ridden in the race is good enough. I’m just looking forward to the whole thing and it will be a really good experience, win, lose or draw.”
Party Island has already tasted victory on three occasions on the all-weather this year, and Tucker is confident that the gelded son of Tagula can add another success to his name by securing a first win on turf since scoring at Haydock Park just under a year ago.
She added: “They seem to think he has a very good chance. Denis has done a wonderful job with him this year and he seems in great form.
“He has run over a few different trips but everyone at home seems to think a mile and a half is his trip. If the ground stays soft enough that will also be in his favour.
“He likes to be held up but he has got an extra turn of foot.”
More than three years may have passed since Tucker celebrated her Festival success aboard Pacha Du Polder, but both the victory, and the manner in which it was achieved, still remain a vivid memory.
She recalls: “Coming over the last I just felt my shoulder pop out and I just tried rolling it back into place. All I could feel was the ball of my shoulder rolling around. I just remember after the line I pushed it straight back in. It wasn’t the most pleasurable thing!
“When I saw Sam (Davies-Thomas on Top Wood) upsides me I was kicking, pushing and screaming but Pacha was an absolute legend and he fought to the end.
“I was so in the zone I was just focused on keeping him in a rhythm and keeping him going forwards. I think I passed the pain barrier and it was a good job I did.”
After making a winning return to action at Larkhill in 2019, having spent the previous six months on the sidelines recovering from an operation on her shoulder, Tucker reports her body to now be feeling “stronger than ever”.
She said: “I had six months off after having surgery but then I came back with a win at Larkhill on a horse that Paul Nicholls part-owned (Monsieur Gibraltar).
“It was hard spending the time off but to be fair I took myself away from everything and just tried to not watch racing. Most of the time I was out was over the summer and I was back in time ready for when everything was going again.
“It has been a long old trip to come back from and Oaksey House were a great help. I’ve had a couple of winners since the Foxhunter and I’ve been riding out for various trainers and the shoulder now feels stronger than ever.”